Save Surrey libraries!

Paul Couchman, Surrey County Unison branch secretary (personal capacity)

Surrey County Council has threatened that another nine libraries will close if their local communities do not step forward and take them over with volunteers. There were originally eleven libraries threatened and now there are 19, with one taken off the list.

Library users, friends and action groups have all come together – alongside Unison and the Women’s Institute – to set up the Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM) to stop every library closure and redundancy or redeployment.

Representatives of almost all the threatened libraries have been active in the campaign. We held a successful lobby of the council in July with over 100 people.

All the threatened libraries have the lowest number of borrowers as they service mainly small, rural communities. But these are not just buildings with rows of books – they are social hubs, community and youth centres, parents and children’s centres. If they were to close there would be nothing similar in most of these villages.

SLAM and all its affiliates will fight hard to mobilise the widest layer of people, linking with the trade unions, to defend having paid staff in every library.

Many of the library friends groups are also collecting volunteers as they are worried about losing their libraries. They do not want to go down this road but would rather have the back-up position if forced into a corner.

We have organised a day of action on 1 October with local library activities in the morning, and a Surrey-wide rally outside Woking library at 2pm. We will also be lobbying the full council meeting on 11 October, 11am at County Hall in Kingston. SLAM’s e-petition already has the highest number of signatories of any current petition.